This week’s program features two chamber music pieces, one with voice and one without, both written late in Schubert’s life, and both inspired by his love of song. “The Shepherd on the Rock” is longer than most of Schubert’s 600 songs, at about fifteen minutes, and in many ways is more like a chamber music piece than a song. The narrator, a shepherd singing of his far away beloved, moves from wistfulness to despair to hope. In the final section, as the narrator sings of faith in the coming springtime, the clarinet and voice echo each other’s ascending lines, acting as chamber music partners rather than as soloist and accompanist. The string quartet “Death and the Maiden,” uses a song as inspiration for an entirely instrumental work. The second movement of this quartet is a set of variations on the theme from Schubert’s song “Death and the Maiden.” By using the melody of the song, he evokes its story, too. In “Death and the Maiden,” a young woman pleads with the personified “death” to spare her life, but as death seductively promises rest and peace he seems to calm her fears, perhaps luring her away. The use of this melody perhaps also reflects Schubert’s own confrontation with death. As he was writing the quartet, he was hospitalized and in poor health. He died only a few years later, at age 31. In 1824, he wrote to a friend, “Each night, when I go to sleep, I hope I will not wake again.”
Recorded live in the Tapestry Room of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is pleased to share this concert under a Creative Commons Music Sharing License. For details see www.gardnermuseum.org.